ARC Review: Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

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Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class and the nobles who destroyed their home.

When Sal Leon steals a poster announcing open auditions for the Left Hand, a powerful collection of the Queen’s personal assassins named for the rings she wears — Ruby, Emerald, Amethyst, and Opal — their world changes. They know it’s a chance for a new life.

Except the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. But Sal must survive to put their real reason for auditioning into play: revenge.

review

****Huge thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!****

There seem to be a lot of mixed feelings on this book with people either DNF’ing their ARCs or loving them, fortunately I was one of the people who LOVED it! I was very pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed “Mask of Shadows” everything about it was entertaining and it really blew away all of my expectations!

Trigger Warnings: Misgendering and Much Violence (gets pretty brutal at times)

PLOT

As you can see in the descriptions right away this is being compared to books by both Sarah J. Maas and Leigh Bardugo but let me tell you I thought this book was so much better than those! You can see the similarities to the plot of this book and that of “Throne of Glass” right away, which I did, but trust me when I tell you I thought this was far better than “Throne of Glass”. “Mask of Shadows” was essentially everything I had wanted “Throne of Glass” to actually be: full of action, brutal violence, and a main character who isn’t all talk! So I personally thought the descriptions didn’t do this book justice, or it did in case you’re a big fan of either of those authors I suppose.

I really loved how we are tossed into some action immediately at the beginning of the story and we don’t waste anytime getting into all the action the synopsis promised! Of course considering the fact that Sal is auditioning to become part of the Left Hand there is quite a bit of training in many various areas so those parts can become a bit tedious, I personally found them enjoyable though. I also liked how none of the contestants were messing around either, they were hardcore! I actually really liked how brutal and violent the lot of them were because this means the author wasn’t sugar coating the fact that these people are trying out to be ASSASSINS. That’s what they do.

While the pacing wasn’t necessarily fast and went kind of back and forth a little bit, I still never got bored while reading since there was always something going on. The action definitely wasn’t lacking here! But as I said the pacing did go back and forth pretty erratically.

The plot was very entertaining, even though it seems it could be a run of the mill YA fantasy plot. Sal’s thirst for revenge and the lengths they go to achieve the revenge was interesting to read about and definitely had me rooting for them.

Another thing that was very well done was the world building but I could have used a little more of it as well. I thought one of the most interesting points were the “shadows” which I won’t go into detail about but the descriptions honestly terrified me! I personally never felt like I was being “info dumped” on but I could see some people getting annoyed with the amount of info being spilled all at once throughout reading.

There were quite a few shocking plot twists and that ending definitely has me dying to read the sequel!

characters

One of the best things about “Mask of Shadows” is the fact that the main character, Sal, is gender fluid, that’s right we have a gender fluid main character in a YA fantasy! While I personally cannot say whether this was represented well or not I read a review from an amazing blogger I follow (Avery @ The Book Deviant) who has an own voices review up that I will link for you to check out!

It’s stated in the book that Sal prefers to use the she/her pronouns when dressed as a woman, the he/his pronouns when dressed as a man, and they/their pronouns when dressed as neither. Since this is just a book review I will refer to Sal using the they/their pronouns.

Sal was a fantastic character and I really adored them, they just had so much spunk and spirit. However, they also came with their flaws as well from the rough past that they’ve had and what they’re willing to do to get their revenge as well. I LOVED that Sal came into the competition with a realistic set of skills and admitted that they didn’t know everything and did their best to learn other skills worthy of an assassin. That is so unbelievable refreshing, a main character that doesn’t magically have ALL the skills!

I’d also like to take a moment here to discuss the cases of misgendering Sal that occurred in the book. This happens in one instance at the beginning of the story and Sal corrects them right away explaining how they liked to be addressed according to what they are wearing and it doesn’t happen again. However, there is a more villainous character that misgenders Sal more than a few times and Sal challenges it immediately, which I loved. There is just one thing that goes along with this that I wanted to mention was that Sal states they like to be addressed as they dress: dresses for she/her and trousers/tunics/leggings for he/him. Now I KNOW this is just a fantasy and most clothing is gendered and that’s accepted but when Sal is misgendered by what they are wearing they state that “clearly” they are a woman/man by how they are dressed and would get very angry (which is understandable of course). I just kind of didn’t like this considering the fact that women and men can dress in whatever clothes they like and not have to identify as that gender based off of the clothes they are wearing, especially since this is a book about a diverse character.

Food for thought and hopefully that made some sort of sense.

AS for the secondary characters I really enjoyed quite a few of them but mostly I adored the other members of the Queen’s Left Hand: Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby (MOST OF ALL RUBY!). I didn’t have too hard of a time keeping track of the other contestants but it did get a little annoying at times considering they were only ever referred to by number. Elise was also a pretty great character and I loved that she was diverse as well (either bisexual or pansexual) since she states that she’s interested in more than just men.

There is a romance in this story but it doesn’t take central stage and is more of a minor plot device. It really wasn’t anything special though and was more of your run of the mill YA fantasy romance.

in conclusion

Overall I really did have a great time reading this book and it surpassed ALL of my expectations!

What I Loved:

  • Genderfluid and overall fantastic main character
  • Stabby plot that doesn’t sugarcoat!
  • Interesting world building
  • Great secondary characters (mostly Ruby…)

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Erratic pacing
  • Sal’s outlook (or just the book’s) on gendered clothing

RECOMMEND

I highly recommend checking out this book whether you’re looking for a fun new YA fantasy or if you’re looking for a great diverse read as well!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

ARC Review: The Hundredth Queen (The Hundredth Queen #1) by Emily R. King

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As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.

But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.

Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.

review

****Big thank you to Skyscape and Amazon Publishing for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review****

Wow, let me just say I am pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up enjoying this book! It has every element I love in a YA fantasy and I honestly cannot wait for the rest of the series now!

PLOT

Of course it’s easy to think with the description of this book that it would be something similar to “The Wrath & The Dawn” or even “The Star-Touched Queen” and while there are some similarities it’s still very unique. I would still say that if you were a fan of either you will probably enjoy “The Hundredth Queen” as well!

I really enjoyed the world building a lot, I liked how every aspect of the lore we were introduced to was incorporated into the plot. I also never felt overwhelmed or confused when information on the world was provided, no info-dumps here! The mythology was probably my favorite part about this story since it ended up playing a major part and was just so fascinating to learn about.

I found the magic system to be pretty unique and actually reminded me a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender since each element is represented, that’s probably why I loved it so much……

While the pacing wasn’t necessarily slow in the beginning it was a little bit harder for me to get into since there was a bit of insta-love that really put me off. However, once I got a little bit further in I was completely engrossed in this story! There were many twists and turns that I honestly did not see coming and I felt like there was definitely plenty of action and fast pacing to keep me turning pages.

The rank tournaments themselves were actually pretty brutal too, there definitely wasn’t any sugar-coating this aspect of the story which I liked since I feel YA authors always try to get out of or gloss over any sort of violence in their novels. Not that I’m some blood-thirsty, horrible person! It’s just I get tired of books promising fights to the death and then not delivering.

I also liked the way females were represented in the story as well as female relationships. There is a bit of girl-on-girl hate at the beginning of the story but I promise you it isn’t what it seems as it changes as the story progresses. I appreciated how the author would point out the wrongness of the way women were treated and how they sometimes treated each other in this world as well and how our heroine, Kalinda, also frowned upon any negative treatment of women and would intervene. The women in this story are honestly total badasses and I loved it! Although I will say I wish the few positive relationships between females would have been shown a lot more.

I was also really impressed with the writing and it was hard to believe this was a debut novel, everything flowed so well! Simple and easy to read overall, which sometimes is just perfect.

characters

The characters in this book were actually very enjoyable, all of them! Once again, I was pretty surprised by how well I thought a lot of them developed and the levels of complexity a few of them had. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with these characters but I love to be proved wrong in this case!

Kalinda was the perfect protagonist, in my opinion. She was brave and loyal but also had her moments where her courage would fail her, she wasn’t perfect. I also really liked how she wasn’t some “super skilled special snowflake” (that’s a bit of a tongue twister, huh?), she had skill but she definitely wasn’t as skilled as lot of the other characters. I think maybe the best word to describe how I felt about Kalinda’s character was “heart-warming” because everything she did, said, or felt just gave me tingles because she was just so realistic and down to earth!

The secondary characters were all well done too, I felt like I knew so many of them even though they were only around for a few sentences! I loved how many were also not just by-standers and we got to see so many of them grow and develop throughout the story.

As I mentioned earlier I really liked all of the female relationships in this book but especially the friendship between Kalinda and Jaya. Honestly, I wished there was more shown between those two because I feel YA could really use more positive female friendships like this one!

romance

The only real problem I had with the romance was that there was some heavy insta-love at the beginning but overall I did like it and felt that Kalinda and Deven made a great couple. Was it anything super special or impressive? No, not really but like I said I did enjoy it so that’s all that really matters.

Plus it doesn’t hurt that Deven is a pretty swoon-worthy love interest. He treated Kalinda right and I’m all for a good guy love interest!

in conclusion

What I Loved:

  • The world building and mythology
  • Kalinda was a great female protagonist
  • The writing flowed well and was easy to follow
  • The plot was fast-paced, action-packed, with plenty of twists
  • Kalinda and Jaya’s friendship

What I Didn’t Love:

  • There was some girl-on-girl hate (which is never okay although in this story it was overcome)
  • Insta-love relationship (even though I did come to like them together)
  • I wish Kalinda and Jaya’s friendship would have been shown a lot more and maybe some more of the female relationships as well

RECOMMEND

I definitely recommend checking this book out especially if you’re looking for something a little similar to “The Wrath & The Dawn”!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: Every Heart A Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

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Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

review

How do I even begin to write a review to such a wonderful, magical, and completely relatable book? I have to say I don’t know if I’ve ever read something so relatable in my life. “Every Heart A Doorway” is a book for us readers and us dreamers, it’s for those of us who have always wanted to live in the fantasy worlds we read about and maybe even feel like we may belong there more than where we are.

You know what I’m talking about: waiting for your Hogwarts letter, opening every wardrobe and closet door looking for Narnia, or even waiting by your window in the hope that Peter Pan will come to whisk you away to Neverland.

If you understand exactly what I mean then drop everything you’re doing and read this book!

PLOT

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place where parents send their troubled children who claim to have been to other worlds. Eleanor helps these children learn to cope with the fact that they are back in the real world and may not be able to return to their fantasy worlds again but offers a safe place for them where they can be believed. However, when the new girl, Nancy, shows up from a trip to an Underworld things start taking a sinister turn at the Home and she finds herself amidst a murder mystery.

Not only is this story very relatable to me as a reader it’s also very original in it’s acknowledgement of many different children visiting many different fantasy worlds and then going back home afterwards and having to deal with the aftermath. I absolutely fell in love with this concept, it’s never really been done before! It’s also almost heartbreaking how much I understand how the characters feel having to come back from these worlds and realizing they may not ever go back.

The world building was incredible I find it so amazing that Seanan McGuire managed to develop a world so quickly considering this is only a 173 page book! I loved learning more about all of the different worlds and how they intersect there are Underworlds, Nonsense Worlds, and Logic Worlds and all have their own unique twists. I could not get enough details about the worlds the characters all visited!

And the writing was fantastic as well it was magical, dark, and light-hearted all at once! The atmosphere the writing created was, for lack of any other words, hauntingly beautiful which is the best way for me to describe it. This book is strange, magical, and has a lot of humor as well and honestly it’s just perfection.

The only part of the plot that bothered me a little bit was that the murder mystery was a little predictable, but honestly that’s all!

characters

I really, really loved the characters in the story not only because I found them all to be very complex and well-developed in such a short amount of pages but also because of how diverse they are as well. We have an asexual main character as well as a transgender boy character and I honestly loved how well both were handled in this story, I felt it was respectful and even a little informative too. There is also racial diversity with a girl of Asian descent and a Latino boy, it was fantastic to see diversity with gender identities and races!

Almost all of the characters that are mentioned have their own worlds and backstories and it was fascinating learning about the worlds they visited and how they impacted them.

in conclusion

Overall I was incredibly impressed with every aspect of this book and I NEED more!

What I Loved:

  • The unique and amazing story
  • The world building with all of the fantastic worlds
  • The writing and eerie atmosphere
  • The well-developed and diverse caste of characters

What I Didn’t Love:

  • Only that it was too short and I want more!
  • The murder mystery aspect was a little predictable

RECOMMEND

I don’t think I can recommend this book enough! Like I said in the beginning this is perfect for those of you who always wanted to fall into a magical world.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite YA Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Top Ten Tuesday(1)

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey @ Ginger Reads Lainey. You can check out the group’s Goodreads page for this month’s topics!

This week’s topic is favorite fantasy and science fiction books in collaboration with BooktubeSFF Awards! I decided to do both genres but in only Young Adult. I have read and reviewed all of these books so I’ll attach my review links to the titles if you want to read more of my thoughts on each of these!

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5.) Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West

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I’ve said this countless times but it’s so true: this book is a hidden gem! Not only did I find the world building very good but also the fact that it had it’s own plot going on along with four sort of “mini stories” and each is a fairy tale retelling (Mulan, Emma, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella). I loved all of the characters as well and actually grew very attached, I didn’t even mind the romance either!


4.) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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The romance in this one did have some problems but I still really enjoyed it, the characters, and the world building was AMAZING! Also Laini Taylor has THE most gorgeous writing I’ve ever come across, seriously I’d read the woman’s grocery list. Overall the story is just so engaging and I really recommend reading it.


3.) The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

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Let’s see here: actual badass main character, lots of action and plot twists, plenty of “court intrigue” with plotting and revenge, and a romance I could actually ship. Not to mention it’s all in space! If you’re looking for a fast paced space adventure than this is definitely a book I recommend reading, it’s one of my new favorite sci-fi books of all time!


2.) Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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I think you’ve all heard about “Illuminae” but in case you haven’t…..its yet another super fast-paced, action-packed, space opera! Complete with crazy AIs, mutating space viruses, and hella plot twists. Plus there’s that unique formatting that is to die for! If you’re looking for an awesome YA sci-fi book look no further.


1.) Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

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While I do acknowledge that this book is very problematic (as seems to be the case with a lot of Kristoff’s books) I still consider it to be one of my all time favorite fantasy books. It’s got fantastic world building (some of the best I’ve seen) and mythology and great characters that I grew very attached too! Plus there’s a bit of steampunk in it as well, they have chainsaw katanas!

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What are some of your favorite YA fantasy or sci-fi books?

Have you read any of these on my list? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments and feel free to link up your T5W as well!

The Sassy

ARC Review: The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1) by Rin Chupeco

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When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha — one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

review

**** Big thank you to Sourcebooks Fire for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!****

I was super pumped when I found out Rin Chupeco was writing not only another book but a dark fantasy book! So of course I went into this book expecting to love it since I loved “The Girl From the Well” and luckily for me I was not disappointed.

PLOT

While I was very much invested in the plot of this story I will admit that the pacing was pretty uneven it was borderline slow. It felt like this book was more so setting up for the next book than having any real action on its own. This is a book you have to be a little patient with.

I also really liked how the story was told from two different POVs one being a Bard whom an older Tea tells her life story in the present and the other being told from the past by a younger Tea. I have to say the present day Tea is very dark and mysterious and I found her to be the most interesting I want to know what happened to her to make her this way! So this does jump back and forth throughout the story between the present and the past which I thought worked really well in this book, it made the story more suspenseful and interesting, it kept me reading!

The story may not be the most fast paced or action packed but it’s still super interesting with all of the world building. I absolutely loved reading about the asha and their magic as well as the horrible monsters the daeva which were actually pretty terrifying. Reading about how Tea is such a rare breed of “witch” and watching as she comes to terms with her Dark abilities and learning how to use them was just a ton of fun.

The world building was also spot on and very creative, it provided just enough to keep me happy and withheld enough that I am interested to learn more in the next books. I loved the concepts of the magical Asha, the demonic monsters Daeva, the mythology of the world, and the different aspects of all the Kingdoms. Also the magic system was interesting as well. There was definitely no lack of world building here and at the same time there was no info dumping either.

The writing was something I had a sort of love-hate relationship with, on one hand I liked it and thought it was very beautiful but on the other hand I found it to be almost TOO descriptive at times. It did help me visualize things a little better but the in depth details got a little tedious after while, I can only read about clothes in that much description before it gets old.

THAT ENDING THOUGH! It wasn’t necessarily a cliffhanger but at the same time it left me crying because I don’t want to wait a YEAR for the next book!

characters

Overall the characters were pretty great in this book, I did feel some lacked a little development though especially the secondary characters because I would have liked some more background on them. I still got very attached to a lot of them mostly the other asha characters such as Althy and Polaire!

The more central characters were a little better such as Tea, her brother Fox, and her mentor Lady Mykalea. We got a lot more background on these characters and I assume we are only going to get more as the series goes on.

romance

I’m happy to say that the romance did not play a HUGE factor in this story, it didn’t take center stage and didn’t take precedence over the plot. Apart from that it wasn’t really developed either, once again I’m assuming it will be explored more in the next book.

There is a bit of a love triangle although without spoilers I will say it isn’t what you think it is a first, they kind of throw a red herring our way and it WILL surprise you when you get to the end. I hate love triangles and this one didn’t bother me at all!

in conclusion

Overall I was very satisfied with this book even though it did bother me a little bit that so much is left to be determined in the next books. The world building is the strongest (and best) part! I am VERY excited to continue with this series and so far Rin Chupeco has yet to disappoint me!

What I Liked:

  • The overall story was intriguing
  • The world-building was great and creative
  • The POVs between past and present was interesting
  • The ending left me wanting MORE
  • The characters were pretty well written
  • The romance didn’t take over the plot

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The writing got a little TOO descriptive at times
  • I wanted just a bit more background on some of the characters

RECOMMEND

If you’re interested in reading a dark YA fantasy I highly recommend this one, it combines all the best parts of fantasy with a little bit of horror since the monsters and sometimes the magic get very creepy. Also if you liked Chupeco’s other duology I think you’ll love this one too!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

ARC Review: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicles #1) by Jay Kristoff

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description

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

review

**** Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!****

It’s official….Jay Kristoff cannot disappoint me.

This book has everything! Deadly assassins, a badass heroine, plot twists galore, magical shadow creatures, and some fantastic world building! Plus it’s a story all about revenge and who doesn’t love that? Honestly, “Nevernight” is perfection.

PLOT

 Getting into “Nevernight” took me a while and it took me longer still to actually finish it, I felt like I was flung into Kristoff’s world without any information whatsoever and therefore it took some time for me to get a handle on the whos, whats, whens, wheres, and whys. Don’t worry though we do get provided with plenty of information after a bit and after that  it was smooth sailing! So I will say that “Nevernight” takes some patience at first but is ultimately very worth it!

There also seems to have been a lot of debate about what genre this book actually is, some say it’s YA but others say it’s Adult because of the graphic violence and sex scenes. I, however, think it’s a hybrid of both. The main character, Mia, is very much a young adult but the plot has elements that most people would consider adult. So I will say if you’re not comfortable with detailed scenes of sex and violence as well as plenty of profanity then maybe this isn’t for you!

“Nevernight”, to put it simply, is all about revenge. Mia wants revenge against the people who killed her family and becoming a deadly assassin is how she plans on doing it. I love a good revenge tale and this book nails it, you can really get behind Mia’s motives and root her on. I wanted Mia to succeed in her schemes to destroy her enemies so desperately, I really felt her loss and wanted her to get her vengeance.

Another aspect of the plot I really enjoyed was the “school” setting, Jay Kristoff really meant it when he said it’s like Hogwarts but instead of being filled with witches and wizards it’s full of vicious killers. Here they learn how to become more skilled with weaponry, poisons, theft, and even secrets. Mia and her peers are tested constantly with their instructors actually trying to kill them to see who has the necessary skills to make it as an assassin. It is intense!

The plot is also filled with insane twists and turns, I did NOT see that ending coming whatsoever! The entire story is action-packed but that ending went at break neck speed, in my opinion, I was screaming in rage and loved every second of it and I absolutely adored Kristoff’s shock factor there!

I also noticed a lot of people have mentioned in their reviews that they hated the writing style in this book and while it is very different from what most of us normally read, I really enjoyed it. Kristoff’s writing is loaded with metaphors and similes making it very lyrical and fun to read. I didn’t find it too elaborate in the least bit. I also really loved the inclusion of footnotes throughout the story they added so much humor as well as background to the world Kristoff built.

Speaking of the world building…..definitely no disappointment there. The world in which “Nevernight” is set is based a lot on Ancient Rome as well as Venice which is apparent from the titles given to certain characters such as Consul Scaeva and Justicus Remus and the many canals that run through the city, a lot of the character names are Italian as well. There is also quite a bit of information provided on the gods and religions of this world as well as bits of magic and “mythical” beasts. Fantasy at it’s finest.

characters

Mia Corvere is a badass to put it simply and the kind of heroine I wish were in every book I read. She’s flawed, strong, fierce, clever, and absolutely unwavering in her determination to take down the people who destroyed her family. She also has a really cool ability – she’s able to manipulate and even speak with shadows. Mia is also the opposite of all talk and no action, she’s a deadly killer and will do whatever it takes to get her revenge. I loved how we got a heroine who actually kills people and is great at it, unlike the very popular Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass series.

We also see quite a few flashbacks to Mia’s past which slowly reveal what really drives her down this path of vengeance. I loved getting this background and insight into her character.

There’s also Tric, who is a sort of secondary protagonist as well as Mia’s love interest. I really enjoyed his character as well, he comes off as being sort of goofy and humorous but don’t make the mistake of underestimating him because he’s one of the most determined and deadliest people in the bunch.

The romance (if you can even really call it that) is definitely not overwhelming at all and very much secondary to both the plot and Mia. It was definitely enjoyable for what it was though, which is mostly sex with some confused feelings thrown in. Remember when I mentioned those very graphic sex scenes? Yep.

The secondary characters are all fantastic as well, they’re very well developed, complex, and add a lot more depth to the story. From the other students to the instructors to the corrupted men in charge of the Republic, I loved so many of them and loved to hate some others. If there’s anything I love in a fantasy book it’s well done secondary characters and “Nevernight” definitely has them!

in conclusion

“Nevernight” is an amazing book full of action, twists and turns, fantastic world building, great writing, and even greater characters. I definitely was not disappointed and very much look forward to the next book in the series or anything else Jay Kristoff writes for that matter!

RECOMMEND

Do you want to read an amazing book? Then yes I highly recommend “Nevernight”! If you want a deadly assassin as a heroine who actually kills people or a story fueled by revenge and betrayals then this is for you! However, I will once again warn any of you who are not fans of graphic violence, graphic sex scenes, or large amounts of profanity may want to steer clear!

Also if you’re interested in reading something by Jay Kristoff but may not necessarily want to read “Nevernight” or you’ve already read “Nevernight” and are looking for more of this author’s amazing work then definitely check out  “Stormdancer” and “Illuminae” which I will provide links to my reviews for!

Get your copy of “Nevernight” now!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1) by Jay Kristoff

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description

A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

review

“WHEN IT IS DONE, WE WILL FLY FAR FROM HERE. FAR FROM THIS SCAB AND ITS POISONED SKY.
WE WILL DANCE IN THE STORMS, YOU AND I.”

Oh, Jay Kristoff why did it take me so long to discover your brilliant work? Now allow me to sing your praises:

“Stormdancer” is an exceptional book, everything about it was just perfect and I feel like it puts every other fantasy book I’ve read to shame! It has everything:

  • An absolute kick-ass, diverse heroine!
  • An even more kick-ass Thunder Tiger companion!
  • A diverse setting that has such wonderful world-building you’ll forget it’s fictional!
  • Fantastic, in-depth, detailed, and original mythology!
  • A touch of steampunk!
  • A fast-paced, action-packed plot full of murder, betrayals, and revenge!
  • Also…chainsaw katanas! How can you say no to chainsaw katanas?

Yeah that’s a lot of exclamation points because I’m excited about all of those things, now let me tell you about the awesomeness that is “Stormdancer”.

PLOT

First off I’d like to mention that it takes a bit of time to fully immerse yourself into this story but trust me when I say it’s worth your time to stick it out! “Stormdancer” starts off a little slow with very descriptive writing, a lot of (confusing) Japanese terminology, and quite a bit of info-dumping. Most of the time the info-dumping would irk me a little bit but the information being given was actually interesting, I wanted to know more and therefore I didn’t mind in the least bit. Fortunately this book does come with a glossary as well so you don’t have to flounder your way through all of the terms (like me), I can honestly say the same words are used over again so once you get the hang of them you won’t need the glossary at all!

So while the beginning takes some patience to get through ( you have to give yourself a feel for the world after all) the pace really starts to pick up once Yukiko encounters the arashitora (about a quarter of the way through) and from there on in it does not slow down at all, I was completely engrossed from that point on.

Remember all of those awesome points I mentioned earlier? Murder, betrayals, revenge? You get all of that and just so much more, Jay Kristoff really knows how to do plot twists! Talk about shock value, I swear my jaw dropped more than once while reading! I was so invested in this story that I was a little raging ball of emotions the entire time, I laughed, I cried, I yelled profanity…but honestly not too many books make me cry and I cried multiple times reading “Stormdancer”. There’s so many things going on and they all mesh together perfectly to make an intense and wonderful story.

One of my favorite parts about “Stormdancer”, though, was the friendship between Yukiko and Buruu (our lovely thunder tiger). It was touching, heartwarming and they also made the most kick-ass team ever, period. I’m a sucker for a good human-to-animal companionship.

I also really loved the fact that Yukiko and Buruu’s friendship was basically the focus for the book, a friendship NOT a romance took center stage. There is a bit of romance but it took a backseat to the other relationships that are depicted, such as Yukiko’s bond with her father and his friends that are essentially Yukiko’s family as well. Gosh, these relationships seriously just made me melt!

Not to mention Kristoff’s writing is insanely wonderful it’s so descriptive and vivid, it painted the picture of Shima and its landscape perfectly. It truly takes great writing like this to make a world so immersive.

characters

Yukiko is probably the single most badass heroine I’ve ever come across. She’s strong, brave, fierce, and determined; I admired her a lot. She’s the kind of character I wish all heroines were like and I find it very rare to find such a wonderful one as Yukiko.

Let’s be honest though, everyone’s favorite character is Buruu (including me). I mean come on he’s a thunder tiger who is both ferocious and snarky and so much more, he’s perfect. His dialogue was my one of my favorite parts about this book!

“ENOUGH NOISE. STAND ASIDE. I WILL GUT HIM.
We can’t kill him like this.
AH. YOU WISH TO LET HIM STARVE, THEN. SLOW DEATH. FITTING.
No, I think we should bring him with us.
TO EAT?”

Aside from that there is a significant string of great secondary characters as well that had the perfect amounts of depth and development. It’s very crucial to me that minor characters are done well in fantasy books and Kristoff really pulled it off. I know it’s a damn good book when I can feel heartbreak for minor characters as well as a burning, fiery hatred for others(Shogun Yoritomo).

Alas both Yukiko and Buruu are the most perfect characters I have come across in a good long while.

in conclusion

“Stormdancer” is fucking flawless and has absolutely everything I love in a book. I absolutely cannot wait to continue on with this series as well as anything and everything Jay Kristoff writes in the future.

RECOMMEND

HIGHLY! If you love strong-willed heroines, kick-ass mythological beast companions, great fantasy worlds, and action-packed plots this is the book for you. Also did I mention there are chainsaw katanas? Yeah, you should probably go buy a copy now.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy

Book Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

a title here(11) description

On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

review

 First of all this book is ridiculously over-hyped, I was scared to read it and be disappointed. So let me tell you it was a nice surprise that I enjoyed it, I don’t think it’s as FANTASTIC as everyone’s been saying but it is good. I do, however, have more than a few complaints about it.

PLOT

So first off the book starts out by immediately pulling you into the story, the writing had a very addictive quality to it and kept me turning pages. There’s plenty of action and a couple plot twists you won’t see coming as well. It was what made reading “Truthwitch” so fun.

So why then did I have such a hard time finishing it?

The pacing is kind of all over the place, there were parts where I absolutely NEEDED to know what would happen next and then there were parts where I didn’t even want to keep reading it at all. Which really confused me, because I don’t like being thrown all over the place on some sort of pacing rollercoaster. At times I honestly wanted to DNF the book because it would get so slow.

Then we have the world building. The concept of the witcheries was the most interesting since there seemed to be so many variations. You have windwitches, waterwitches, threadwitches, and the list goes on and on. There was also some pretty fascinating mythology added as well, it was very original. BUT. There was a serious lack of information on all of it. Sure there was cool mythology and witcheries, but none of it is ever really explained. They just throw the names around and you never actually KNOW what any of it is or what it means. For me this was the most frustrating thing, we get dumped into the world without knowing anything about it and it stays that way until you finish the book.

Plus nothing is ever explained about the world itself, who are these other countries? Where are these places you speak of? Tell me something! I’d like more information than a map!

Not to mention we have a ton of other characters that are mentioned a few times and we meet them once and never hear anything about them after that. Come on! Would it kill someone to actually explain what is going on? What’s happening with those other characters? I know they’re semi-important, so they didn’t just vanish never to be seen again.

Yep, my biggest problem with this book is the HUGE lack of explanations! For everything!

“Truthwitch” also has multiple POVs, which isn’t usually a problem, you get more information and insight with multiple characters. My problem with POVs in this book was that there was NO indication when they were switching over at all, there was a space and you had to read a while before you figured out who’s point of view you were reading. Sometimes it was obvious right a way but really? You couldn’t just have SAFI as a header so we would at least know right away?

characters

So the best part about this book (other than the cool witcheries) were the characters. I mean at least with them I know what’s going on, unlike the world-building.

Safi and Iseult are the two main characters, they’re also best friends. I really loved their friendship in this book, it was one of my favorite parts while reading. I really liked how they put their friendship first, they didn’t need any men to swoop in and save them.

Safi is not a great character, I honestly found nothing to like about her at all. It seemed that all she was good for was making stupid decisions. I mean people tell her to do something FOR HER OWN GOOD and what does she do? She runs away and does the opposite. Seriously? They’re trying to help you and you’re fucking it all up with your stupid decision making! She’s just way too rash with her decisions, there’s zero planning or any actual thinking behind them either. She just acts and most of the time not for the best.

Honestly, Safi was a pretty boring character overall. Her witchery isn’t very flashy or interesting, but she does know how to kick some ass. Unfortunately the ass-kicking is overshadowed by the decisions that led her to need to kick any ass, a lot of the times. Also Safi is a bit of a “special snowflake”, even though her witchery is mostly a secret so not everyone was fawning over how special she was all the time, but she still had that specialness about her.

Iseult on the other hand is awesome. I liked reading about her way more than I did about Safi. Iseult is just more interesting, she isn’t a special snowflake like Safi and she doesn’t rush into things and make dumb decisions. Iseult is a Threadwitch so she can read people’s threads (kind of like a walking, talking mood ring honestly) and therefore she really pays attention to what’s happening around her. If only Safi were so observant maybe she would actually not fuck things up.

There are a few other characters as well such as Prince Merik, he really isn’t that great. Not swoon-worthy or really even notable at all, yes he plays a bigger role in the plot but he’s boring. He was a flat character in my opinion, he didn’t really have any personality. The people that work on his crew, like his aunt, were ten times more interesting than Merik was.

The character I liked the most, besides Iseult, was Aeduan. He’s a Blood Witch, which just screams cool if you ask me. He can track people by their blood scent and control your body through your blood. That’s creepy and really badass, which if Aeduan is anything it most definitely is badass. He also developed in a way I really liked, the “villain” who might not be so bad after all. Aeduan definitely has more going on than meets the eye, making him a very interesting character.

romance

The romance in “Truthwitch” is border-line insta-love and downright annoying as hell. I think really what the worst part is, is how much time Safi and Merik spend thinking about each other and how much they dislike each other when it’s so obvious that they are head over heels in insta-love. I rolled my eyes so much I felt like they were going to get stuck in the upward position.

If Safi and Merik spent half as much time worrying about actual problems than they do thinking about each other they might actually have gotten some shit done.

in conclusion

I know it seems like a lot of complaints and way more negative than positive, but believe me I really did like this book. I had a lot of issues with it, but it was entertaining. I loved the concepts and I liked “most” of the characters. It was very much a fun read, but if you’re looking for a fantasy with more solid world building then I’d look elsewhere.

RECOMMEND

Sure, it’s not something I’m a HUGE fan of and will go around shoving it into people’s faces in the hopes that they will read it, but it is something I recommend taking a look at. Like I said it’s fun and it’s entertaining, but it lacks any real fantasy elements and not lot of things are explained. If you’re looking for fun then look no further but if you’re a fan of fantasy world-building done right, skip “Truthwitch”.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy

Book Review: Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

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description

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

review

Usually I don’t read graphic novels, the only other graphic novel I ever read was “Watchmen” which is a classic. So needless to say I don’t have a lot of experience with them, so when Ariana at The Quirky Book Nerd recommended it to me I wasn’t sure. Pretty much everyone who read it loved it and gave it raving reviews, I was intimidated. There’s no way this graphic novel could live up to that much hype, right? Wrong. “Nimona” lives up to all of the hype. For me “Nimona” is going to be a gateway book into the graphic novel world, I can just tell.

The storyline was very engaging, there’s never a dull moment in this book! I couldn’t stop turning pages until I got to the end of the book and even then I was wishing there was more. It’s pretty fast paced, I finished it in no time.

We don’t just get a straight forward plot either, nope we get a series of flashbacks as well. A glimpse of everyone’s past, kind of like a super hero origin story. It made the characters feel a lot more real and interesting. While the plot wasn’t exactly predictable there weren’t too many shocking instances either. I’m used to Gillian Flynn plot twists so it takes quite a lot to really surprise me. But that doesn’t mean you’ll see some of the twists in “Nimona” coming.

I also loved how Noelle Stevenson did the humor in “Nimona”, I swear I was laughing during more than half the book!  Nimona herself was absolutely hilarious and that’s really one of the main reasons I found the book to be so entertaining.

Speaking of Nimona, talk about a GREAT protagonist. She’s quirky, fierce, and lovable all at the same time. She does what she wants when she wants, she’s completely unpredictable and I loved it. Nimona is also very well-developed, we get to really know her personality as well as her backstory throughout the book.

Then there’s Blackheart and Goldenloin, also excellent characters. Although Goldenloin’s character, to me, really wasn’t all that important or exciting. He was kind of just there to move certain plot points along, I didn’t care for him. Sorry! I did love Blackheart though, if there was any competition for favorite character it was him (with Nimona as the winner of course). He’s supposed to be the big, bad super villain when really he’s one of the only ones with a conscience.

I also really enjoyed the relationships between Nimona and Blackheart as well as Blackheart and Goldenloin. So much friendship, it warmed my heart!

Not to mention I loved the artwork, the illustrations were so vibrant and fun! I don’t really have a ton of experience with comics illustrations but I loved Stevenson’s work!

in conclusion

I wish I could do “Nimona” more justices by writing a better and longer review but alas I cannot gush anymore.

RECOMMEND

Dang right I do! I also think this is a great “starter” graphic novel, a graphic novel for people who haven’t really read a whole lot of them. It’s a truly wonderful book!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy

Book Review: Six of Crows (The Dregs #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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description

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

review

This was an amazing book plain and simple. When a book has as much hype surrounding it as “Six of Crows” does you definitely go into it expecting it to blow your mind and in this case it did not disappoint.

I was actually a little worried I mean everybody and their grandma loved this book and gave it at least 5 stars! Beside that I wasn’t exactly a HUGE fan of Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone”, while I didn’t hate it I wasn’t crazy about it either. So needless to say I thought I might not like her newest book/series.

While I cannot give this book the full 5 star rating that most people have given it I can say it was still a great read, I did have some complaints though. I think it might just be a problem I have with Bardugo’s writing because I feel like some of the same problems I had with“Shadow and Bone” are apparent for me in “Six of Crows” as well.

One more note is that you CAN read this book without reading the Grisha trilogy! Although I will say it helps out a little, just reading “Shadow and Bone” gave me a better grip on understanding terms and such.

 PLOT

I’m going to start off by saying my favorite part about this book was the plot. Six criminals pulling off an impossible heist? Heck yes! I love heist stories, I can’t get enough of them. “Six of Crows” definitely delivered that. The entire planning aspect of said heist was a lot of fun, I loved reading how these guys were going to make the impossible, possible.

This book has been advertised as a cross between Game of Thrones and Ocean’s Eleven, it definitely has elements of both. Although I think it’s leaning a little more towards Ocean’s Eleven, actually it’s JUST like Ocean’s Eleven. I think most days EVERY new fantasy book gets slapped with the “Like Game of Thrones label”. The only thing that was remotely Game of Thrones-esque was the multiple POVs and some plot twists. However, good shocking plot twists are not exclusive to Game of Thrones. Point made.

Anyways! I loved the world-building in this book, whereas “Shadow and Bone” was very fantasy-lite I feel “Six of Crows” has ten times that depth. We actually learn about the separate countries, cultures, and languages. THIS is how you do fantasy world-building. There was TONS of diversity as well, we had characters with a lot of different skin shades and belief systems. I loved it. SO MUCH FANTASY CULTURE.

Also even though this is marketed as YA it felt surprisingly more adult-like. There’s definitely YA elements and I myself would label it that but there were some pretty dark moments that made me question what genre I was reading. In a good way, of course! I mean after all you are reading a book about a bunch of criminals and criminals they most definitely are.

The overall pacing of the book is very fast, it’s a pretty big book after all and didn’t really take all that long to finish. That’s how quickly I was turning pages. There’s SO MUCH action, I couldn’t go to sleep because I just wanted to keep reading.

Also there’s a pretty cliffhanger ending, so if you’re not up for that…..now you know.

characters

I freaking adored every single one, they were developed incredibly well. They all had such great depth to their personalities, I couldn’t believe it. Bardugo managed to craft excellent characters in just one book. They’re all badass criminals but there’s also so much more to them than that.

Each character has a POV int his book (minus Wylan, no idea why though) and they have flashbacks throughout the book to help us get background on their pasts. I loved this element in the story, learning about what drives each of these characters to do what they do. It helps you feel so much more attached to characters when you know where they came from and what they’ve been through.

Seriously, Bardugo did an OUTSTANDING job writing these characters. I could sit here and gush about them all day.

romance

Please excuse me while I rant and use some curse words…..

I hated how EVERY SINGLE FUCKING CHARACTER HAD TO BE PAIRED UP FOR A ROMANCE. EVERY SINGLE ONE. There’s six main characters thus the book’s title and each of them was GAGA over one of the others. Sure one of the pairs isn’t as outright as the other two pairs but it’s still definitely there and noticeable. I HATED IT. Like really? Can’t we just have great characters that like being their own person and don’t NEED another one of the characters? Can we? No?

Like excuse me for not wanting a huge love fest in the middle of my heist book.

A lot of people say the romance did not take over the book at all and I beg to differ. While you can still read this book for the heist and action and have a good time, I found all of the romances to be a bit distracting. I hate romance driven books for the most part and I’m just not a fan of having that many going on in one book at one time.

This is why I didn’t like “Shadow and Bone” I hated the romance(s) even though I loved the characters. So I think it’s safe to say that I just don’t like Bardugo’s writing when it comes to romances.

Basically it all boils down to I thought the sheer amount of romances was completely unnecessary. I did NOT need all of my main characters trying to romance and flirt with each other.

 

in conclusion

I loved it far more than I thought I would, this is a book that really lives up to all of its hype. Even if you didn’t really love Leigh Bardugo’s other book “Shadow and Bone” (like me) I still think you should give this one a try.

I’ll definitely be returning for the sequel!

RECOMMEND

Yes, yes, yes. As I said earlier you do NOT have to read the Grisha trilogy before this book! So go ahead and read this book now!

Links: Goodreads / Amazon

The Sassy